Monday, September 25, 2006

Can Africans get along (with each other that is)?

My beloved mother, God bless her, raised me as a World citizen. Regardless of whether she always abided by this herself, she made a point of inculcating in me the fact that all humans were created equal in rights, duties and worth, and that differences between humans were to be treated as a common wealth, because the exploration of those differences was what would ultimately bond us together. Hence I grew up with people I called uncle and aunt and cousin (very close-friends of my parents, and their children), who were black, white, brown, yellow, green, blue... you get the picture. So it really never occured to me until... about High-school that there was such a big problem with race.

What I knew however, were the problems between Africans, and differnt ethnic groups in Congo. And that was also interesting because my mother, God bless her, also inculcated me with a love and loyalty to Congo as a whole, and a very strong sense of panafricanism. Yet, I could always - and can - sense was/is some of the disdain by Congolese people, for the West Africans, which were nicknamed "waras" (in refernce tothe fact that many of them are Muslim, using the term "Wal'lahi" to say "I swear to God"). I could sense the issues between the Hutus and the Tutsi (and we saw where that ended). I have seen the clivages between French-Speaking and English-Speaking Africans, between light-skinned/mixed Africans and darker ones, between Igbos and Yorubas, Balubakats and other Katangans, Mbutis abd bantus, Muslims and Christians (and animists) in Nigeria, Ivory Coast; And later on, yes, between White and Black Africans. One often wonders whether these multiple - often VERY artificially created - will ever allow Africans to prosper harmoniously. For someone with my Panafricanism, it is often really... depressing!!!

But then, you have those moments that just re-energize me, and give me more hope for the motherland. 5 years ago, while I was a sophomore student at Earlham College, I initiated - at the request of the elder Africans on campus - the "Pan African Society at Earlham" (PASE), to unite the very few Africans, Afro-Carribeans, potentially African-Americans, and friends of Africa from other continents, on campus. PASE started-off great, with a lot of optimism, and bright ideals. But in the following years, those petty, artificial divisions - as well as some interpersonal misunderstandings - made the group go to the deep end. I was worried that after I graduated, the group would simply... disappear. Well it did NOT!! In fact, they kept going, with the organization of "Africa Fest" (Earlham's African Festival) last year, despite the straining tensions that internal disagreements were creating.

And this year, the young PASE members have outdone themselves, with a nearly flawless Africa Fest, with great advertising, and a cohesive, communal and harmonious organization that would shame even the African Union. I was impressed to see the joy and the smiles on the faces of all these students, from Zimbabwe, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Lesotho, Swaziland, Sudan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Liberia, Haiti, Jamaica, Fiji and the United States (and Congo, with me), all working together without unnecessary complaints, and annoying noises, and useless bickering... all working - even those that were not of African descent - for the motherland to be represented with dignity and quality - at least to the best of their ability. This are the small initiatives that give me hope in the future. If these students represent what the future of Africa and the world will be made of, I have hope. The synergy they displayed was a delight to watch, and observe, and participate in, and it was resounding rejection of all the apocalyptic views of Africa and its prospects.

The current PASE members and all their friends lead me to state boldly: Africans can - and WILL - get along, when given the chance. There are forces intent on us never getting that chance. Let them be warned: Their final hour is not far! Let those that have ears...

Bayete PASE!! Longonya na Afrika!!